Title: ATTACK THE BLOCK
Year of Release—Film: 2011
A small group of London thugs is interrupted in the process of mugging Sam, a nurse new to their council-flat block (British for public housing) by an explosion, followed by something crashing through a near-by car. Sam beats a hasty retreat while the gang checks out the wreck and discovers something alive and unpleasant in it. That something claws gang leader Moses’ face, scarring him, and escapes. These wanna-be gangstas, angry at the interruption and Moses’ injury, track it down and kill it. Then, they parade their find through the darkened streets like some kind of smelly trophy. And for some reason they don’t figure out until late in the film, a second wave of alien monsters—described vaguely as “gorilla-wolf-looking” creature—is out to get them! Quite by accident, they wind up in Sam’s apartment where they find themselves uneasy allies with their previous victim against these unknown, blacker-than-black beasts with glowing fangs.
Fans of science fiction know that the bad guys always get killed by the invaders from Space. This is where ATTACK THE BLOCK differs when we, the audience, realize that the baddies are here to stay. Understandably hesitant to get the authorities involved, these street-smart, profanity-slinging little criminals are ready to do what they have always done—defend their turf! Even if that turf in the gritty, grimy high-rise flats they inhabit and the littered and graffitied streets that they nightly prowl. Armed with everything from baseball bats to Super-Soakers to swords, they face down dozens of monsters that, for some unknown reason, want them dead!
Writer and director Joe Cornish is too savvy to excuse the teen’s violent behavior or suggest we shouldn’t condemn them. Instead, he uses them as narrative objects and allows the audience to root for their survival. However, instead of coming off as preachy or socioeconomic savvy, ATTACK THE BLOCK is a pulse-raising thrill-ride whose near perfect construction belies its director’s first-time status. All but one of the gang’s actors are first-timers, a couple of whom—John Boyega as Moses and Alex Esmail as Pest—shine even in the presence of the more experienced actors. SHAUN OF THE DEAD’s Nick Frost has a secondary role as the pot dealer and adds some much-needed stoner-humor. The sets have the claustrophobic feel of small, tight spaces and darkened hallways. The cast is kept to a minimum giving one the feeling that these young men are all alone in their fight against this extraterrestrial menace. The payoff is the alien monsters that are crafted in an ingenious, scary and memorable way, easily the Best Movie Monster of 2011.
This is the movie indie moviegoers have been waiting for and it deserves all the praise it’s been getting. It’s not your typical Hollywood remake filled with all the familiar Hollywood faces. Sure, it’s formulaic but it does the formula right. Hopefully, viewers will get a sequel that will not be spoiled by padding or CGI-heavy monsters. And hopefully, the remake will star John Boyega, whom, I believe, has a great future in indie film. See ATTACK THE BLOCK. You’ll thank me. Four stars.